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05/14/2013

'Weather Whiplash' replacing record cold with record heat

Dakota
North Dakota has seen some wild temperature swings, as has a lot of the U.S.  (Jim Gehrz/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)

Those making bitter mental notes on 2013 as the year spring never came, behold the phenomenon of "Weather Whiplash" that is taking hold in the central U.S., where near-record cold to near-record heat is happening with astonishing speed.

The topsy-turvy changes are especially weird in places like Chicago, which awakened to near-freezing temps Monday morning but is today expected to top out at 30.5 C. And Bismarck, N.D., and Aberdeen, S.D., also saw similarly extreme swings in the span of a single day, rocketing to roasting temps with each passing hour.

The extremes are discussed in detail here by Weather Underground's resident historian Christopher C. Burt, who traces the powerful surge of warm air flowing into the central U.S.

Accuweather.com is tracking the same phenomenon, noting the Midwest heat will lose some of its steam as it shifts east. But the charges are still noteworthy, with the Buffalo area shifting from snow flurries Monday to T-shirt temps tomorrow.

A surge of comments on Burt's post suggest the phenomenon, though rare, is not unique, citing the "long winter" of 1881 that was later described in an episode of "Little House on the Prairie." One commenter adds: "Cynics say you know you're in the midwest when you need both your furnace and AC on the same day."

Mitch Potter is the Star's Washington Bureau Chief, his third foreign posting after previous assignments to London and Jerusalem. Potter led the Toronto Star’s coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he won a 2006 National Newspaper Award for his reportage. His dispatches include datelines from 33 countries since 2000. Follow him on Twitter: @MPwrites

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